Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Glass Church

Between 1949 and 1951, Lloyd Wright (Frank's son) built the glass Wayfarer's Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Internet research reveals that many celebrities including Jayne Mansfield, Dennis Hopper, and Brian Wilson have gotten married in the chapel.

Fans of "The O.C." television soap opera will recognize the Wayfarer's Chapel as the location of Julie and Caleb's wedding, Caleb's funeral, and Julie and Bullet's called-off wedding.

The view over the ocean to the Catalina Islands:

Across the street from the Wayfarer's Chapel is Abalone Cove, an excellent place to explore tidepools:

Purple anemones in the tidepools (each of these were about 2"-4" across):

Here is a brown starfish with a large green anemone on top of it and three little purple anemones underneath:

A little orange starfish with my hand for scale:

I've never seen a sea slug like this before - it was brown, about 10" long, and was waiving its tentacle things around:

Here is a map of Rancho Palos Verdes with Abalone Cove and the Wayfarer's Chapel across the street. At the top of the hill, there is a nice viewpoint over the ocean at Del Cerro Park. There are trailheads for hikes on Burrell Lane right next to the park.

View Larger Map

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cat of the Week: Larry David

"Larry David" of Culver City is the neighborhood troublemaker and is also one of my housemates. Larry had trouble sitting still for a photo:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cat of the Week: Sven

"Sven" of the Palms neighborhood with a 1950's dingbat style apartment in the background:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Los Feliz: Frank Lloyd Wright

Los Feliz is another one of L.A.'s pleasant, walkable neighborhoods that people from NYC and the Bay Area tend to like. Vermont Avenue between Prospect and Franklin has restaurants, shops, cafes, and Skylight Books which, so far, is my favorite book store in Los Angeles. Los Feliz is also home to two large and distinctive houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959).

The magnificent Ennis House, built in 1924, is located at the top of the hill and looms over Los Feliz like a futuristic Mayan fortress. It is one of four houses, all in the Los Angeles area, that Wright built with patterned concrete blocks in the early 1920s. The somewhat ominous looking house has been featured in many TV shows and movies including Blade Runner.

In Frank Lloyd Wright's own words: "No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other." Here is the Ennis House rising out of its hill and mirroring the silhouette of the mountains in the background:

The Ennis House has a panoramic view stretching from the San Gabriel Mountains in the East over the entire Los Angeles Basin out to the Pacific Ocean and the Catalina Islands in the West. Here is a view of downtown L.A. from the front patio:

A view over Los Angeles from the side terrace:

The Ennis House is not currently open to the public, however, I was in the right place at the right time and got myself invited into the house during a private tour for some out-of-town donors. The interior of the house is gorgeous but has a slightly sinister feeling. Here are the pictures that I took of the living room and the raised dining room area:

The long, low hallway has layers of the same patterned concrete blocks that form the exterior of the building:

A close-up of the concrete block design:

The exterior windows and interior glass door panels include beautiful art glass in classic Frank Lloyd Wright designs:

This original glass mosaic above the living room fireplace is supposedly the only remaining glass mosaic in any Frank Lloyd Wright house:

The Ennis House includes three corner panorama windows with unbroken views over the city:

The Berendo Stairs lead up to the Ennis House from Los Feliz:

Down at the Southern edge of Los Feliz, the Hollyhock House, a Mayan-inspired concrete home that Frank Lloyd Wright built between 1917 and 1920 for eccentric oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, is less impressive than the Ennis House. However, it is nicely situated on a scenic hill that was previously an olive grove and which is now owned and administered by the City of Los Angeles as the Barnsdall Art Park. In addition to the Hollyhock House, the park includes a gallery, a children's art center, and an outdoor sculpture garden with beautiful views of the city and Griffith Park.

A view of the exterior of Hollyhock House:
The Hollyhock House was Wright's first building in Los Angeles and he experimented with integrating indoor and outdoor spaces to try to find a style that would work well for the temperate Southern California climate. The house is open for public tours, but I only recommend the tour for people who are specifically interested in architecture or Frank Lloyd Wright. The "one hour" tour that I went on was led by a somewhat belligerent docent and lasted for almost two hours. The house is also not one of Wright's more livable, attractive designs and, in fact, Aline Barnsdall herself only lived in the house for a few years before moving out.

This chain link fence is not a Frank Gehry addition, it's just what happens to a Frank Lloyd Wright house when it is owned by the City of Los Angeles:
The hollyhock was Aline Barnsdall's favorite flower and she requested that it provide the motif for the building. Here is a detail of the stylized hollyhock pattern that decorates the interior and exterior of the house:

And some actual hollyhock flowers from the gardens:

Another detail from the exterior of the house:

This house, refered to simply as Residence A, is the other original Frank Lloyd Wright structure on the Barnsdall Art Park:

A view of the Griffith Park Observatory from the Art Park:

Walk number 23 in my favorite book "Walking L.A." by Erin Mahoney Harris covers Los Feliz including the Barnsdall Art Park/Hollyhock House, the Ennis House, the Bonvue and Berendo stairs, and the nice part of Vermont Avenue. If you are from Berkeley and feeling homesick, the quiet residential streets off of Hillhurst and Vermont look a lot like the East Bay.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Welton Becket's Los Angeles

Prolific L.A. architect Welton Becket (1902-1969) designed dozens of buildings in Los Angeles between the 1930s and 1960s that reflected and shaped a distinctive L.A. aesthetic.

Becket built the Cinerama Theater on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard in 1963. The Cinerama is modeled on the geodesic dome design by inventor/architect/engineer/artist Buckminster Fuller and it is the earliest and the largest geodesic dome theater in the world. ArcLight Cinemas re-opened the Cinerama in 2002 after installing extra-comfy seats, upgrading the acoustics, and adding additional theaters in the adjacent building. The Cinerama is still a popular location for Hollywood movie openings.

In the 1950s, people in Southern California liked buildings to be shaped like whatever was sold or made in the building. There are still donut shops here that have giant donuts on top of them and hot dog stands shaped like hot dogs (somewhat more distastefully, there is even a parking enforcement building in West L.A. that is shaped like a parking meter). Welton Becket's Capitol Records building in Hollywood was completed in 1956 and was the world's first round office building. Its 12 circular stories and wrap-around shades are supposed to look like a stack of records:

The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, built in 1959, includes six 72-foot high concrete masts that are reminiscent of 1950's Cadillac fins. Behind the giant masts and the entrance canopy, a cast concrete grille runs the length of the building and gives the facade a beautiful, delicate look.

At the downtown Los Angeles Performing Arts Center, Becket built the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion between 1964 and 1969 with a gently swooping roof:

Across the plaza from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Becket-designed Mark Taper Auditorium, also built between 1964 and 1969, consists of a circular theater surrounded by a dark blue moat and a free-standing, square-shaped colonnade. The circular drum of the theater is encased in a 378-foot long cast concrete relief in an abstract pattern:

The Schoenberg Hall at the Herb Alpert School of Music, which appeared in my blog post on UCLA, was built by Welton Becket in 1955 and is decorated with a mosaic by modern artist Richard Haines:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hollywood Bowl and High Tower

It is surprisingly quick to get from the crummy, touristy area of Hollywood up into secluded hilly neighborhoods. One group of houses in this area is so inaccessible that residents have to park their cars in freestanding garages at the base of the hill and then walk up stairs or take a private elevator in the "High Tower" to get to their houses:The High Tower was built in 1920 and its design is based on a Bolognese tower. Here is a view of the elevator landing at the top of the High Tower:

These hilly neighborhoods are criss-crossed with public stairways that are hidden in between houses:

The Hollywood Bowl, home to the L.A. Philharmonic since 1922, is the country's largest natural outdoor amphitheater and is located in the hills about one mile from central Hollywood. The stage and shell were originally built in the 1920s and are constantly being renovated to improve acoustics. The original shell was built by Lloyd Wright (Frank's son) and updates include a 1980s remodel by Frank Gehry. Here is a photo from the Bowl of the present-day shell with the Hollywood sign in the background:

George Stanley, the sculptor who designed the Oscar statuette, built this beautiful art deco fountain at the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl in 1940:

This funny dog on Camrose Drive doesn't realize that his owners have made a painting of him on the other side of his peep-hole to the street from his yard:

I combined Walks 16 and 17 from my favorite book "Walking L.A." by Erin Mahoney Harris to do this walk around the lower Hollywood Hills area:

View Larger Map